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Meatless Mondays via Ezra Pound Cake

20 Jun

For this meatless monday I was quite uninspired until Christine sent me a link to Ezra Pound Cake’s Meatless Mondays posts. I was really impressed by how summery the food sounded – light and cool and tasty at the same time. I went to my new favorite grocery store, Market Basket, and bought a few ingredients that would cover both the pasta with zucchini and tomatoes, and the cornbread salad. Turns out the ingredients were fairly simple and nothing was unfamiliar to me except for greek yogurt. You could almost take these ingredients and turn them into a large variety of summer dishes. But the first one I made would end up being the noodles.

Buckwheat Noodles with Zucchini, Tomato and Lemon Yogurt Sauce


2 packets of buckwheat noodles (or whole wheat spaghetti or linguini)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
2 medium zucchini or yellow squash
1 6 oz greek yogurt
2-3 oz Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
Lemon zest or lemon pepper seasoning
1 clove garlic
Olive oil

Heat a pot of water to boil the noodles. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Peel the zucchini, then slice them into long thin slices, described best as “long pieces of gum”. When the water is boiling, toss the noodles in to cook. If you have a steamer, you can also steam the zucchini a little bit over the noodles. I cooked the noodles about 10 minutes, and it turns out that if you steam the zucchini for the whole time they will become overcooked.

Remove the zucchini from being steamed before they lose their crispness, after 3-5 minutes of steaming. Remove the noodles from the heat when they are cooked to the desired softness.

Heat olive oil in a large pan or wok. Toss in garlic, diced or thinly sliced. Toss the zucchini in, and stir fry in the oil. This should be enough to get them soft and slightly brown. Toss in the cherry tomatoes and briefly stir so that they become slightly soft and heated.

In a large bowl, mix the greek yogurt, plus about half that volume of parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and lemon zest. If you don’t have lemon zest, using lemon pepper seasoning works magically as well. Mix in the zucchini and tomatoes, then toss in the noodles. Toss everything, then top with some more Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Total time procrastinated:20 minutes
Ways to prolong procrastination:Make cornbread croutons to top the noodles. See next post.


Bachelor’s Sous Vide Steak

20 Jun

A friend of mine forwarded me some articles on how to make the perfect steak out of a less expensive cut of meat…using an even less expensive version of a nouveau cuisine favorite technique. The meat is steak, and the art is cooking it sous vide. From Serious Eats is the recipe i followed for Beer cooler sous vide steak which something every bachelor should feel excited about. The advantage to cooking it sous vide, or in a hot water bath, is that the temperature supposedly never goes above what you’ve set, so the steak will be thoroughly rare, medium rare, or however you like it, and it will stay that temperature until ready for a quick sear in the pan. And fortunately for most of us, we all have a cooler which is just as good at keeping heat in as keeping it out. So using a beer cooler, hot water, and a cheap cut of meat inside a ziplock bag, we can enjoy steak as tender as they make in the restaurants.

I am still experimenting with cuts of meat. Supposedly the more expensive cuts are costly because they are easier to cook whereas the middle priced meats taste just as good, provided you don’t overcook them. In the end, I decided that bottom round is still not good enough for steak. Time to venture into the $7 to $10 range, though it’s still way more affordable than your $30 restaurant steak. (An actual grilled steak I had recently was a slab of dry aged ribeye or ny strip, which was genuinely good, and will be a meterstick for future steaks.)

Steak Sous Vide with Corn off the cob and Mediterranean Mix

8 or 10 oz cut of beef
Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, or other aromatic herbs
Ziplock bag
Water cooler
Teapot or water heater
Meat thermometer

Heat about half a gallon of water on the stove until it reaches 140 degrees F. I estimated the heat by taking the water off the stove before it boiled but after the water started bubbling. Pour the water into the cooler, and if needed, add cold water until it is around 140. Medium rare is 135 degrees, and with slight cooling effects the steak should be about medium rare to medium. I ended up with a starting temperature of 150 degrees.

Season steak with herbs inside the ziplock bag. Do not add other ingredients such as salt or butter. Remove all the air from the bag and seal the ziplock bag, submerge the whole steak underwater, and set a timer for three 15 minute intervals. After each 15 minute interval, check the temperature of the water, and add more hot water if needed to maintain about 135 degrees.

After 45 minutes, heat a skillet with oil. Remove the steak from the bag and sear quickly on both sides, getting a little char on each side but do not overcook. Also sprinkle sea salt and black pepper if desired.

For the corn off the cob, steamed a cob of corn over water for 10 minutes, then cut the kernels off with vertical slices of a knife.

The Mediterranean mix was a pack that came with various grains and seeds. Heat 1.5 cups of water with a tablespoon of butter. When the liquid boils, pour in the mix and stir on medium heat. Then let simmer until most of the water cooks away.

My steak ended up being a little overcooked still. That’s because I aimed for a temperature of 150 instead of 135, and every 15 minutes I added some hot water until it was between 145 and 150. The cooler I had seemed to leak heat a lot more than the Serious Eats article said. In the future I think it would be ok to start at 150 and just let the water sit for 45 minutes instead of raising the temperature back up twice.

Total time procrastinated: 60 minutes
Ways to prolong procrastination: Create a sauce with the juices left in the ziplock bag

Rosemary Sweet Potato Fries

6 Jun

I have several bottles of olive oil infusing with various herbs. They are all sitting on my kitchen counter, mostly unused. One contains a bunch of garlic that was starting to go bad (so the best way to store it of course, is to keep it in olive oil.) Another one is a container of oil with rosemary leaves, stored neatly in an old sake bottle. And for the past year or two it has been becoming more and more aromatic.

So naturally the best use of it was to use it all to fry up some sweet potato fries! Along with coarse sea salt, this was a snack worthy of a sunday afternoon, with a beer, sitting outside in my cushioned garden chair. Not sure if that’s what I did but it sure sounds appealing now.

Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary and Sea Salt

One large sweet potato
1 cup olive oil infused with rosemary
Sea salt

Peel and cut the sweet potato into fries. Heat rosemary oil in a small sauce pan or pot, small enough so that you don’t need a ton of oil to create a layer for frying. Toss the sweet potato fries in the hot oil until they are tender and slightly brown. Remove the fries from the oil and drail oil back into the pan. Sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.

Total time of procrastination: 15 minutes

Meatless Mondays

16 May

A few weeks back I decided to start doing Meatless Mondays, encouraged by several factors including the global warming crisis, a desire to explore more interesting vegetarian dishes, and a friend who was also doing it. However, the most compelling reason I started was that the Sunday before we had done some sort of barbeque and I had eaten so much meat that my stomach was upset at me for days. Hence, Meatless Mondays was started to counteract Shitless Sundays.

To be honest, eating is a much more interesting act now than before I started. It’s not like I’m doing salad and health food on Mondays. No, the food is actually quite filling, and in many cases involves a healthy dose of oil, cheese, and glutenous things. It’s just that I am able to break the monotony of the standard weekly fare – rice plus some sort of grilled meat, or rice plus stir fried onions and peppers. Mondays I look forward to experimenting with whatever strange, exotic, and green leafy things I bought on a whim on a previous Haymarket run. Some examples include eggplant and tofu stir fry, grilled muenster sandwich and tomato bisque soup, and daikon and baby bok choy stew. Maybe if I start doing reruns I will make posts of those on a future Monday.

This week I mixed my Asian and southern roots, and made a collard greens and daikon gumbo. Can you even call it a gumbo, even though i’m from the coastal south, not the gulf south? I don’t know, but it turned into a ricey, beany, spicy mix that has the consistency of gumbo. So here’s the recipe to a super creamy and rich asian/southern cuisine.

Collard greens and daikon gumbo with brown rice and black beans

1 bunch collard greens
1 onion
3/4 can black beans
1/2 large daikon
2 cups brown rice, cooked
red chili pepper flakes
1 can vegetable stock
3 cloves garlic

Heat oil in a wok, and add in chopped garlic. Wash collard greens and chop into small pieces (1-2 inch squares). Peel and roughly dice an onion. Add onion to the hot oil and cook until almost translucent, and then add all the collard greens. Stir fry collard greens and onions for about 5 minutes, adding in salt and a generous amount of red pepper flakes.Add in black beans, then add in the can of vegetable stock, plus a second can’s worth of water.

Peel and slice daikon, then cut slices into quarters. Slices can be thick and chunky. Add the daikon and the precooked brown rice into the wok, and make sure there is enough water to partially submerge the daikon. Put a lid on the wok and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Occasionally stir the daikon and rice into the liquid so that it will cook thoroughly. I used brown rice that was still slightly crunchy, so by the time the vegetables were ready the rice was essentially recooked.

The dish is ready when the daikon is thoroughly soft, and the stalks of the collard greens are tender.

time to procrastinate: 45 minutes
ways to put off studying for finals more: make corn bread and sweet tea

Homebrew: Weissbier

29 Apr

Last year I bought a Groupon that gave me a lesson in homebrewing and a full kit for $35. I knew it would pay for itself many times over. This is the third batch of beer that I’ve brewed, and the second one that was successful to the bottling stage. So here are some instructions step by step how to use a 5 gallon homebrewing system to get hopefully the best wheat beer i’ve had. The kit i bought this time is Brewer’s Best Weissbier which was the easiest kit available at my local brewer’s hobby store, but some flavors are available on Amazon.

Brewer’s Best Weissbier

6.5 gallon homebrew bucket
Large stew pot (>5 gallons, or two 3 gallon ones)
Plastic hose and autosiphon
48 12-oz beer bottles, nontwist top
48 new bottle caps and capper
C-Brite cleaner or B-Brite cleaner
1 gallon water jug
1 large cooler
glass dropper (optional)

Ingredients (Found inside the kit):
Two cans of malt extract
Flavoring hops
Bittering hops
Active brewing yeast
Priming sugar pellets

Additional ingredients (Optional):
Blueberry flavoring

Heat 2.5 gallons of water and add one can of malt extract. While mixing, bring to a boil, then turn heat down and add a second can of malt extract. Let it simmer for 45 minutes. If you have two smaller pots, split the ingredients and transfer liquid from one pot to the other back and forth to ensure that the whole mixture is homogeneous.

The first step of the process above can be started, then cleaning can be done concurrently. Mix C-Brite powder with the appropriate amount of water in a 1 gallon jug to create a mild cleaning solution, and use it to rinse all tools and surfaces that will be used for the brewing process. Cleanliness ensures that the whole batch of beer doesn’t get contaminated and thrown out. Clean tools by putting them all in a large container (the homebrew bucket) and pour C-Brite over everything liberally. Remember to rinse the lid of the homebrew bucket too.

Add flavoring hops, and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Add in bittering hops and simmer for another 15 minutes or less.

If you can fit the pots into the large cooler, fill the cooler with ice and water and set the pot of liquid into the ice bath to cool to 70 degrees F. Cooling the wort (the cooked liquid) quickly is important to prevent contamination, but the last time I did it, it took a stupid hour for me to cool everything but it was still ok.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the yeast by mixing it in a bowl with some water. Using warm water is preferable.

Make sure the spigot is tightly screwed into the homebrew bucket or the hole in the bottom will cause all your wort to go to waste. Pour the wort into the 6.5 gallon bucket. Add in water (around 2 more gallons) until the total volume is 5 gallons. Add the yeast mixture.

Take a hydrometer reading. A good resource on hydrometers and what they do is at How to Brew by John Palmer. I’m not going to go into it but this is the time when you measure the specific gravity of your brew mixture.

Now, simply put the lid on the bucket, fill the airlock halfway with water and stick the airlock into the lid, and put the homebrew bucket somewhere cool for about a week.

After a week or when the bubbles stop forming in the airlock:

Bottling also requires thorough cleaning. Cleaning 50 bottles is a huge pain in the butt so some people prefer to brew in the larger 22 oz bottles instead of 12 oz bottles. But I’ve come up with a pretty good way to wash everything. I have a large cooler that can probably fit 12 bottles lying down on their side. I fill that cooler with more than enough water to submerge a bottle, and for each 12 bottle batch I do one soap bath, one water rinse, and one C-Brite rinse. The soap bath gets rid of all the old beer and crusty old that might be in your old beer bottles. The water bath rinses away the soap pretty well, then the C-Brite does a second rinse and also kills of any more germs that are left. To save some water and time I take two bottles in my hand, submerge them, then dump out the liquid back into the cooler, and set the cleaned bottles aside. This cleaning process can take an hour but you just have to remember you are making 50 beers per batch, and it will be worth it for a long time. Also, rinse the bottle caps in C-Brite at this time.

Again, take a hydrometer reading before bottling. This allows you to calculate the percentage of alcohol in the beer.

Bottling is pretty simple if you have the right tools. I have a length of plastic hose that fits snugly on the spigot to the homebrew bucket and the autosiphon. For 12 oz bottles, first put four pellets of priming sugar in each bottle (different priming sugar packets might have different instructions.)

The autosiphon puts exactly the right amount of beer into each bottle. Push the siphon downward to dispense, and fill the bottle completely to the lip, so that when the autosiphon is removed there is about an inch of air on the top of the bottle. Cap the bottle using a capper (which comes with most kits as well.)

To add flavoring, the instructions say to mix a certain amount of the blueberry flavoring to a certain amount of beer. I roughly calculated it to be four drops from a dropper into each bottle since I had already bottled the beer. Take in the flavoring into a glass dropper and put four drops into each bottle before you add the beer.

The beer sits in this secondary fermentation process for another 3 weeks or so. Since at the time of this post it has been about 3 weeks, I will be tasting the beer soon and updating with the results. Cheers!

Product Review: Tribest YoLife Yogurt Maker

11 Feb

I received a little package of love from CSN today in the mail – my Tribest YoLife Yogurt Maker. Just in time because I have a bunch of fresh pineapples, fresh bananas, frozen strawberries, and frozen blueberries just dying to adorn a smoothie. And tonight I make yogurt.

But first, let’s take a look at the yogurt maker itself. People always have the belief that no actual appliance is ever needed to make yogurt. I have always used my glass jar and down coat to make great yogurt. However, the YoLife Yogurt Maker promises a more consistent temperature and thick delicious yogurt in 8-12 hours’ time. So what will this gadget actually contribute to my yogurt process? This is my review of the Tribest YoLife Yogurt Maker.

The YoLife looks just as it does on the website. It came with seven small glass jars that were 6 oz each, giving potentially a week’s worth of yogurt ready to serve. However, the lids were lightly screwed on, and I would not trust putting a jar into my bag to bring to work because I’m fairly sure it will spill.

The base is nothing but a large round plastic bin that holds some sort of heating element. Hopefully the heating element is well designed and will not overheat and melt the container. There were two plastic lids – one small sized to hold the 6 oz jars, and one taller sized that allows you to basically put a huge jug inside. They’re lightweight plastic but seem to fit the base to make an air tight enclosure for the heating yogurt.

There is a small plastic dial that looks like a timer at the top but upon closer inspection, the timer is purely for displaying a set hour and does not move by itself.

So now, for the yogurt making process. I made two batches – one with the 7 small containers, and one with my old jar in the traditional way. I used what was left of my low fat milk and about the same amount in skim milk, and heated the milk together in a pot until it reached 180 degrees. The instructions that came with YoLife said that lukewarm milk could be used, and I’ve always boiled the milk then let it cool, so this time I just stopped at a nice round number. I let the milk cool to about 130 degrees (conventional methods say that if you can put your finger in the milk it is ready).

After the milk was at 130 degrees F, I mixed in a whole carton of the Stonyfield yogurt that I had. Unfortunately it was berry flavored instead of plain or vanilla, but the fruit mix was on the bottom. I mixed the yogurt around in the milk but when I distributed the mixture into the containers, I found that the yogurt was still chunky and not quite mixed in, so I had to make sure that each small container had some chunks of yogurt. Maybe this will cause the results to come out different in each container. A smooth vanilla yogurt would have been a better source of culture.

So now I have the 7 containers of milk in the YoLife Yogurt Maker, which plugs directly into the wall and just constantly runs a heating pad to incubate the yogurt. I put the rest of the milk into my jar, and wrapped that up in two coats. I also added a pot of heated water because by the time the large jar was poured, the temperature had dropped to 110. I finished at midnight so tomorrow morning will be around 7.5 hours of yogurt making.

Total time procrastinated: 1.5 hours including boiling and cooling of milk
Ways to procrastinate more: Nothing you can really do but wait now.


YoLife Traditional
Morning temperature 120 degrees F 90 degrees F

More liquid layer over yogurt, a bit chunky at bottom Smooth and even, not as much liquid, a bit chunky at bottom
Taste Slightly more tart Mild

Convenience 9/10 – plug and forget 7/10 – saves electricity

Overall: the YoLife Yogurt Maker actually saves space and time because I do not have to cool the milk to exactly the right temperature, and my table is not covered by a large bundle of coats or sheets to keep the yogurt warm. It is more consistent because it does keep the mixture at the same temperature for however long I want. Although not necessary, it does make making yogurt a more convenient and more suitable experience, so I will probably be doing it more regularly. The small jars are convenient for grabbing the right amount of yogurt straight from the fridge, but also being able to make a large container of yogurt is great because it produces more consistently smooth yogurt and produces fewer dishes to wash.

Making Yogurt: a Preview

3 Feb

As you know, we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with CSN Stores several times recently to bring a little depth to this food blog, and to bring a little of this food blog to you. Even though our focus is on cooking, and in doing so, procrastinating from your homework, CSN can provide you with both the cookware to make your food, and the laptop messenger bag to carry your work around in case you do decide to finish that pset.

This time, I’m going to work a bit in depth with the CSN Stores products and do a review. After long consideration I’ve decided that I’d try to improve on my homemade yogurt, which had worked fairly well before (see Homemade yogurt and granola). Things have gotten a bit more lazy recently and I haven’t even eaten the last batch of yogurt that I made, which regrettably might have become cottage cheese by now. So I’m going to get the Tribest YL-210 Yogurt Maker which has a large amount of decent reviews. So I think this is the perfect way to do a review of CSN’s wide range of products, and to keep procrastinating from that work!

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